LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Bobby Wyatt and Peter Williamson, two of the hottest amateur players coming into the week, showed no signs of cooling off, as they share the lead after 54 holes in the 106th Southern Amateur Championship at Chenal Country Club.
Wyatt, a junior at Alabama, and Williamson, a recent Dartmouth grad, shot 2-under 70s Friday on a windless, 100-degree day. They both stand at 7-under 209 going into the final 18 holes.
They hold a one-stroke edge over recent Central Florida graduate Brad Schneider and Florida State’s Daniel Berger. Schneider came in with a 72, while Berger had the day’s best round with a 4-under 68.
Next challenger is Richard Lamb of South Bend, Ind., at 4-under 212, one shot better than Gavin Green of Malaysia.
“This was a day where you really had to stay patient and keep the ball in play,” said Williamson, an Ivy League three-time first-team and Player of the Year. “The pins were a lot tougher.”
Coming into the tournament, Williamson tied for eighth at the Trans-Miss Amateur, won and was medalist at the North & South Amateur, tied for 15th at the Sunnehanna Am, and tied for fifth at the NCAA North Regional.
Wyatt, a third-team All-America and the Southern Golf Association’s National Player of the Month for June, has also been impressive since mid-May. Last week he finished second at the Player’s Amateur and before that placed fourth at the Dogwood, tied for fifth at the Northeast, won the Sunnehanna and was second at the NCAA Southeast Regional.
Williamson, a third-team All-America, got his third round going with a birdie at No. 4, but followed with a double bogey at the sixth.
“I had one bad swing, really, and it cost me,” he said. “I pushed my tee shot into a hazard at No. 6 and ended up making 6.”
He came back with a birdies at Nos. 7 and 8, where he chipped in from just behind the green, and another chip-in birdie from behind the green at No. 16.
“Overall I feel good about my game,” Williamson said. “I still need some work from tee to green, but my short game has really pulled me through all week.”
Wyatt’s round was like a roller coaster right. He fell behind early with bogeys at Nos. 1 and 4. He got those back with birdies at 5 and 6 and then added two more at 12 and 13. After a bogey at 14, he drained a 60-foot putt for eagle at the par-5 15th. That gave him the outright lead at 8 under, but on the closing hole he made bogey after missing the green right and two-putting from 25 feet.
“It was a pretty rough start, but I knew I had to stay patient,” Wyatt said. “I knew there were still plenty of holes to make some birdies. And making that putt on 15 for eagle was a bonus.
“I didn’t finish the way I would have liked, but overall I’m pleased with the position I’m in. At the start of the week this is where you want to be, playing in the final group, on the last day.”
After a bogey on the opening hole, Berger settled down and played the rest of the way in 5 under. His key stretch was making birdies at Nos. 6, 7, 8, and 10. His final birdie came at 14.
Schneider, too, struggled out of the gate, making double bogey at the second hole. He then made birdie a No. 5. In between bogeys at 13 and 16, Schneider made birdie at 14 and eagle at 15 where he sank what he said was a putt “over two time zones.” or some 75-80 feet.
“I was just hanging in there today,” Schneider said. “I was hitting some good shots, but I just didn’t have it on the greens. Most of the day I was just grinding it out and trying to give myself a shot (at the title), which fortunately I have that.”
Williamson may have been the only player in the field Friday to not only be wearing long pants, but carrying his own bag as well, which he has done from the start.
“Actually, I’ve been quite comfortable all week,” said the native of Hanover, N.H.
Second-round leader Keith Mitchell had a nightmarish start and pretty much shot himself out of any chance to win the tournament.
Starting the day at 8 under, Mitchell was 7 over after five holes and 8 over after seven as he bogeyed the first three, made doubles at 4 and 5 and then another bogey at 7. He came back with birdies at 8 and 10, but bogeyed 14 and 15 to shoot 8-over 80.
“I had some bad breaks and hit some bad shots,” Mitchell said. “It was just surreal out there at the start.”
Two weather delays on Thursday forced the second round to be completed Friday morning prior to the start of the third round. Once all the players finished 36 holes, the field was cut to the low 66 scores and ties. It took a score of 5-over 149 to stay and play, with 75 sticking around for the final 36 holes.